Sunday, November 25, 2018

A close look at some Trump voters


The Forgotten, by Ben Bradlee, Jr., is the latest in a series of books by blue state liberals about red state Trump voters.  It's unfortunate, as another reviewer of one of those books noted, that no comparable books by conservatives about blue state voters have appeared to balance them--we need to know how the other half sees us.  Bradlee writes about Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of what was once anthracite coal country.  The county is 83% white, 11% Hispanic, and 5% black.  Traditionally Democratic, it voted for Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008, 72,000 to 61,000 (with 2300 minor party votes) and for Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012 (64,000 to 58,000, again with 2300 write-in votes.)  Two years ago, however, Donald Trump carried the county over Hillary Rodham Clinton, 79,000 to 52,000, and the minor party vote doubled to 4700 votes.  The 27,000 margin for Trump was about half of his total 45,000 margin in the critical state of Pennsylvania.  Note that the overall turnout fell significantly in 2012, but equaled the 2008 total in 2016.

Let me start with a point of my own.  While millions of racists undoubtedly voted for Donald Trump in 2016, I don't see how anyone can look at those figures and argue that racism won him the election, either in Pennsylvania or in the nation as a whole.  Barack Obama, who is black, carried the county with 72,000 (mostly white) votes in 2008 and 64,000 in 2012.  Hillary Rodham Clinton won ony 52,000 votes in 2016.  Sexism, it seems to me, might have cost the Democrats the  election (although I'm not aware of any sophisticated statistical analysis making that case.) Racism could not have.  Let's move ahead.

Bradlee's impressionistic but effective book consists of long interviews with a dozen Trump supporters about their individual political odysseys.  He begins with now-former Congressman Lou Barletta, who rose to local prominence and got some national ink in 2006, when he was the Mayor of Hazleton, a small city that has now become majority Hispanic.  In that year Barletta pushed through ordinances making it a crime to rent to or hire illegal aliens in an attempt to reduce the Hispanic influx.  Other cities around the country followed his lead.  Two federal courts ruled these measures unconstitutional on the grounds that they usurped federal authority, but, in a portent of things to come, Barletta became a local hero and was elected to Congress in his third race against a Democratic incumbent.  He has served there ever since,  although he gave up his seat to run for Senate this year. 

I am not going to discuss the rest of Bradlee's subjects in detail, but perhaps some basic Democratic data is in order. He begins with four men.  Vito DeLuca, 50, is a lawyer and self-described Reagan Democrat.  Ed Harry, 72, is a Vietnam veteran and labor organizer who voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in 2016.  Marty Bacone, 54, owns a bar. Bruno Lanigan, 57, is a retired state trooper whose father was a leading figure in the A.F.L.-C.I.O.  Four women come next.  Lynette Villano, 72, is a long-time Republican, whose enthusiastic support for Trump led to a series of very painful email exchanges with her college-age son, who wrote, "Thanks to you and your kind, hatred and bigotry have been normalized and legitimized. I hope you're proud of that."  Donna Kowalczyk, 60, has run a hair salon for many years, and lives in a neighborhood now blighted by shootings and prostitution.  Kim Woodrosky,in her late 40s, is a very successful real estate developer who voted Democratic from 1992 through 2008 and didn't vote in 2012.  Tiffany Cloud, 50, is a housewife married to a veteran, and a long-time Republican.  Her husband Erik Olson gets a chapter of his own in recognition of the critical role veterans played in Trump's election, giving him a 2-1 margin.  Steve Smith, 47, a truck driver, gets a chapter to himself because he's an active white nationalist who holds a leadership position in the county Republican party.  And Jessica Harker, a 60-year old registered nurse,  is a devout Christian who thinks that God chose Trump to save America.

Reading their stories, I felt that these men and women took politics very seriously and, in many cases, had come to their new views slowly.  A good many, clearly, had been Democrats.  They had watched the coal mines, and then various other industries, die around them over the last few decades thanks largely to globalization.  Many of them had voted against George W. Bush and had greeted Barack Obama with some enthusiasm as an agent of change.  But he had disappointed them for the same reasons, really, that he disappointed me: he had done very little, if anything, to reverse the economic changes that had disturbed them so much.  The Democrats after 2008 had a chance to restore the nation's faith not only in themselves but in the whole political process, and they had failed to do so.  These voters chose Trump because he was an outsider who rejected all the conventional wisdom.  And because of that they were willing to excuse all his personal baggage.  They also despised Hillary Clinton--and accepted a lot of the accusations against her that they had heard from Trump and on Fox News. 

Democrats, it seems to me, have fallen into the trap of belief in their own moral superiority.  That, they feel, entitles them to the votes of any reasonable American, and anyone who votes against them is some sort of deplorable.  (Even Hillary Clinton, in the appearance in which she made that word famous, allowed that only half of Trump's supporters were racists, sexists, and homophobes; now the mainstream liberals I know are less likely even to be as generous as that.)  But in fact, many of thee people refused to vote Democratic because they didn't feel the Democratic Party had done anything meaningful for them in decades, and I for one cannot say that I blame them.  I will have more to say about this from another angle within the next month or so, after reading another much more important new book about global economic policy.  The Luzerne county voters also dislike illegal immigration on principle--illustrating the consequences of the establishments failure to legalize it over the last three decades--and the spread of political correctness in the culture.

Bradlee concluded his book with a return visit to Luzerne County earlier this year, in which he found all his subjects still enthusiastically pro-Trump, while wishing that he could stop tweeting and moderate some of his rhetoric.  The recent election, however, told a somewhat different story, there as elsewhere. 

In 2016 the popular Lou Barletta was re-elected to Congress with  a 64%-36% margin. Luzerne  county was split between two  Congressional districts and in the total vote the Republicans tallied 73,300 and the Democrats 58,200.  This year the district was split between the new 8th and 9th districts, and the Democrats won 53,600 votes and the Republicans 54,000, suggesting that far more Republicans stayed at home.  Barletta carried the vote for Senate handily in the county, but long-time Democrat Bob Casey, Jr., beat him 54-46 in the general election, at least temporarily ending his political career.  Republican voters in many other parts of the country, as I showed last week, did shift to the Democrats, and the critical questions for 2020, obviously, are the identity of the Democratic candidate and the degree to which Trump's personal magic will continue to work on the voters who elected him so narrowly in 2016.




3 comments:

Ed Boyle said...

So the whole emotional thing about Trump vs Clinton is starting to even out and also the extremes of W and Obama haters put into perspective. Attitudes don't change over night. I read that immigration reform in late 60s switched population from 85% white to 61%. 50 years did that much. 3rd world/Asian immigrants vote democrat. Illegal immigration is a voter program for dems and a cheap worker program for republicans. Bipartisan cynical destruction of middle class. Were racist immigration policies therefore good? Where would growth have come from if women all went to work and whites had less babies all the time. In Europe no different. Would have 70 million Germans today instead of 80 million ithout immigration. Do we need growth? If only USA and Germany have to compete with one another and other countries. Japan has very low to zero growth and little immigration which is racially based but maintains social stability. Long term it seems sensible. Resources aren't limitless. Eventually fossil fuel, technological innovation will peter out. Then balkanized societies without freebies to distribute will go all out civil war. Gangs of New York was great for perspective the film gave on this being a timeless phenomenon.

Lower growth in mature industrial economies confirms this trend. Peak oilers, limits to growth, environmental doomsayers generally sound like zombie apocalypse types but growth trend slows to zero over time. Hitech ain't fridges, washing machines and cars but just infotainment. New ideas don't change fundamentals much anymore. Like when Rome reached certain limits there was nowhere left to go. Iran, germania, black africa were not possible. Nowafdays USA tried doing to Middle East what they did with Japan, Germany but it only made things worse. Japanese and Germans americanized willingly after defeat. Arabs refuse. Chinese, Russian lead the resistance to empire. So internally we are balkanized like in 1840s NYC from new immigration and extrnally imperialism whih began with Monroe doctrine, Spanish American War has hit its absolute globl limits. It looks a lot like Rome. 100 million don't work, bread and circus infotainment welfare state plus extreme security police state of patriot act plus internet oversight controls unruly. Implosion can't be far but it can draw itself out over decades as last 10 years of ZIRP, QE have shown. But this is decline from heyday. Perhaps a coincidental defeat of US troops by Russian subs downing the whole fleet would be a blessing in disguise allowing a trillion dollar peace dividend and focus on consumer production, civilian infrastructure. Only the blind can't see that military is excessive parasite and not the only one. Soviet Union isn't only centralized bureaucracy in the world falling under its own weight.

RUNNINGDOGLACKEY said...

Apparently, things still aren’t nearly bad enough…yet.
That said, here’s the reason there is no comparable literature for “red state” voters about the breakdown of “blue state” voters: “red state” voters don’t read.
On the other hand, “identity” aside, did CNN ask any other questions?
Meaningful statistics might be better generated by the following exit poll:
1) Which party do you hate the most right now – Republicans, Democrats, or the people next door?
2) In how many prior elections did your hatred prove sufficient for you to actually register and then vote?
3) Would you consider yourself upwardly mobile, stuck in a rut, hopelessly depressed, or homicidally apoplectic?
4) Are you blue collar, white collar, or black?
5) Are you a member of the rentier class, or do you just support whatever they want?
6) Can you spell fascism?
7) What do you think about collateralized debt obligations, tariff restrictions, and the collapse of Bretton Woods?
8) How long do you guess it will be before you are replaced by a robot?
9) Would you say you are a commodity, a customer, a capitalist, or human?
10) Do you think we should have a voting holiday, or would you just like to not have to work during a holiday?
11) Which groups would you like to see in concentration camps?

Bozon said...

Professor
Let me just make a questionable point regarding these two post passages of yours:

"The Democrats after 2008 had a chance to restore the nation's faith not only in themselves but in the whole political process, and they had failed to do so. These voters chose Trump because he was an outsider who rejected all the conventional wisdom. And because of that they were willing to excuse all his personal baggage. They also despised Hillary Clinton--and accepted a lot of the accusations against her that they had heard from Trump and on Fox News."

"Let me start with a point of my own. While millions of racists undoubtedly voted for Donald Trump in 2016, I don't see how anyone can look at those figures and argue that racism won him the election, either in Pennsylvania or in the nation as a whole. Barack Obama, who is black, carried the county with 72,000 (mostly white) votes in 2008 and 64,000 in 2012. Hillary Rodham Clinton won ony 52,000 votes in 2016. Sexism, it seems to me, might have cost the Democrats the election (although I'm not aware of any sophisticated statistical analysis making that case.) Racism could not have. Let's move ahead." DK

I did get them out of order, but no matter....
The point is merely this: It may be that Americans voted as they did against Clinton not because of sexism at all, but rather because of moralism against Clinton, right or wrong.

Certainly she is not the monster painted by Fox etc, but that strategy worked. I seriously doubt that she failed because she is a woman.

All the best